IBM System x3650 M4 review
Not perfect, but a good choice for SMBs that want an affordable 2U rack server that can grow with them
Review Date: 13 Aug 2012
Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell
Price when reviewed: £3,339 (£4,007 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
The System x3650 has always been IBM’s workhorse rack server, and in this exclusive review we test the new M4 model. Along with support for Intel’s E5-2600 Xeons, IBM has designed this server to allow businesses to start small and pay as they grow.
You can choose from a wide range of storage and RAID options. Our review sample came with eight hot-swap SFF SAS/SATA drive bays, and you can upgrade to 16 bays. Usefully, the 8 Pac upgrade has a SAS expander card on its backplane. Unlike the HP DL380p Gen8, you don’t need a second RAID card and so won’t lose a PCI Express slot.
Those with deep pockets can order the server with up to 32 of IBM’s 1.8in SSDs. If capacity is more important, you can have six hot-swap LFF hard disk bays, and then there’s the configure to order (CTO) model that cuts costs by using six cold-swap SATA bays.
IBM has improved its RAID options, as the base ServeRAID M5110e controller is embedded on the motherboard. This supports 6Gbits/sec SAS and SATA drives, but if you want more than stripes and mirrors, one upgrade gives RAID5 and 50, and a second takes that to RAID6 and 60.
Cache starts at 512MB with a battery pack, or you can go for 512MB or 1GB of flash-backed cache. As RAID is based on LSI’s SAS2208 chip, you have the option to activate its CacheCade feature to optimise read activity from an SSD-based cache.
The x3650 M4 showcases IBM’s new IMM2 embedded management controller. The basic version is of limited use since it doesn’t support web browser management or KVM over IP remote control. Our system included the IMM2 Advanced upgrade, which activates the Gigabit port at the back. The browser interface sees a substantial redesign over the older IMM and provides more information about critical components.
However, it comes up short of Dell’s iDRAC7 for features and is beaten soundly by HP’s new iLO4. On a more positive note, IBM’s Systems Director utility is easier to use than Dell’s Management Console and HP’s Insight Control.
Designed to manage network devices, Systems Director provides discovery, software deployment, inventory, file transfer and VNC- based remote control tools. The Active Energy Manager plugin talks to the IMM2 and provides power capping, plus trend graphs of power consumption and system temperatures.
IBM is lagging behind in deployment, since you still have to boot with the ServerGuide DVD to get an OS. Dell did away with this three years ago, and HP’s Gen8 servers now have the new Intelligent Provisioning feature.
The IBM is virtualisation-ready since its internal USB port uses a key to boot into VMware ESXi or vSphere 5. HP’s DL380p Gen8 provides internal USB and SD card slots, but Dell goes one step beyond as its R720 has dual internal SD card slots for hypervisor redundancy.
Memory options are extensive, and the x3650 M4 is the first of IBM’s servers to be offered with HyperCloud DIMMs (HCDIMMs). These are expensive but support up to 384GB running at 1,333MHz with three DIMMs per channel, and claim a 25% performance boost over standard RDIMMs.
Network connections are also more flexible: the IBM has four embedded Gigabit ports plus a dedicated connector for an Emulex dual-port 10GbE mezzanine card. The HP has one connector that supports either quad Gigabit or dual 10GbE cards.
The quoted price includes a pair of 750W hotplug supplies, which will cover most workloads, but you can opt for 550W or 900W modules. With Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise idling, we recorded a draw of 98W, and with SiSoft Sandra putting the processors under maximum load this peaked at only 222W.
Internal cooling is handled by a bank of four hotplug fans in front of the processors. With the HP sitting next to the x3650 M4, noise levels were low with nothing between the two.
SMBs looking for a general-purpose 2U rack server or something on which to run their critical apps will find IBM’s x3650 M4 worthy. It isn’t as sophisticated as the HP, but it’s good on features and value, and will be easy to upgrade.
Author: Dave Mitchell
- Toshiba beats retreat from consumer PC market
- Ellison steps down: but who's really running Oracle now?
- Microsoft set to make more job cuts
- Is Peter Pan panto tickets email genuine? Oh no, it isn't
- Intel triples Xeon E5 chip performance, adds DDR4
- Patch Tuesday targets critical IE flaw
- Microsoft refuses to hand over customer emails
- Microsoft yanks Windows 8.1 update after crash reports
- Microsoft backtracks on blocking out-of-date Java
- Gartner: time to start planning your Windows 7 upgrade
- How to check your identity hasn’t been sold to the hackers
- Tim Cook: this is how much TV has changed since the 70s
- Westminster wins the .London battle
- 20 years of PC Pro: from deep pan pizza to virtualisation
- Five reasons why the Apple Watch leaves me cold
- Apple Watch, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus: Tim Cook's Apple back with a bang?
- BT Home Hub 5: how to get maximum speed
- 20 years of PC Pro: one-star reviews (including "the worst tablet we've ever seen")
- 20 years of PC Pro: our best covers
- Why we've closed the PC Pro forums
- How to set up a wireless hotspot for your business: give customers free or paid for internet access
- Five worst SMB security threats... and how to solve them
- Doing business in a social era
- How to configure SysLookup for your network
- The 18 best Outlook tips for increasing productivity: become an Outlook expert with these lesser-known tips
- Office: should you buy it, rent it - or dump it?
- Small server vs cloud: which is best for SMBs?
- The best mobile apps for business
- Windows XP: Microsoft’s ticking time bomb
- gTLDs: what your business should know about new domain names
- How to sell more ebooks on Amazon
- 10 ways to make your business more secure
- Top five VoIP mistakes
- How to add in-app purchasing to an iPhone, Android or Windows app
- Remote-control ransomware: TeamViewer and software hardball
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office